Friday, August 11, 2017

*Ahem*

*Blows dust off of keys* hmm. Appears to be working.

So. Alas, I haven't had any new stories to share that didn't involve work and incidents which were either under investigation or identifiable if someone local happened to stumble here, so I haven't been blogging. Most recently my spare time has been taken up with rebuilding a fence, putting together a honking big round pen, moving horses, and simultaneously thanking the weather gods for moisture and cursing the rain that makes said round pen an unusable muddy mess.

However, as most of my readers still dedicated enough to check on this blog probably already know, LawDog has published a couple of books containing the blog stories, with the second one going live as of yesterday, and waving the best-seller flag whilst still in pre-order. (Told ya so.)

Now, I'm notoriously bad about remembering to do things like go back and do reviews of books even when they're authored by dear friends and I thoroughly enjoy them. But, when the first book went live I duly hit up the Amazon website to post a review after I read it.

Because LD is a beloved friend, kin, family that I chose, blogdaddy, and other adjectives expressing love and admiration, I watched the reviews roll in with a certain sense of pride, and frankly curiosity.

And then I noticed something odd.

Mine was gone.

I looked. I went to my Amazon profile which apparently forgot that I ever posted a review on anything, ever... which could be understandable as to the best of my recollection I probably haven't posted a review to anything else, ever.

So I sent a message to Amazon support, along the lines of "um... wha happened?" thinking it was some sort of website error. The matter is escalated to a special team. I finally get an email back informing me that my review was deleted, advising me thusly:

"
Hello,

I hope this e-mail finds you well. This is Mervin from the Communities Team.

We are unable to post your Customer Review for "The LawDog Files" to the
Amazon website because our data shows elements of your Amazon account match elements of other Amazon accounts reviewing the same product. In these cases, we remove the reviews to maintain trust in our customer reviews and avoid any perception of bias.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. It is our goal to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions. Therefore, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or biased will not be posted. This includes reviews by more than one customer in the same household.

To learn more about this policy, please see our Customer Review Creation Guidelines (
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines).

We'd appreciate your feedback. Please use the buttons below to vote about your experience today.

Best regards,
Mervin V."


Um... what? The only possible other accounts that may have reviewed that product would be dad's, and the only similarity would be saved shipping addresses. So, off I go and click the "No" button under "Did I solve your problem?"

I wrote out a screed on my cell phone, whilst sleep deprived and sitting in a Burger King with Farmmom on a run for... I forget what, but we needed something so we went to get it in the town that has a Burger King, and decided that we wanted some of their breakfast croissants, which top the list currently for fast food breakfast-like objects in reverse order of flavor comparison to cardboard.

I took screen shots on my phone of the itty bitty text window all the way through my screed, but I'm not motivated enough to reproduce it here. Luckily, when I went to copy/paste their response into this post I discovered that they had included the text in their email, so you get it anyway.

" I received an email telling me that a review I posted had been removed because of similarities to another account in my account. The only thing I can think of is similarities in shipping addresses between my account and my father's account, because we buy things for each other and ship them directly.

So, is it
Amazon's policy that anyone who ships gifts to someone else cannot leave a review? I assure you I am a real customer, I bought the book, I read the book, and I left a review of the book. I was not paid to leave a review nor am I a bot or a review farm.

Right now, it looks a lot like my review was removed based on a policy that would basically prohibit family members who may live in the same household, but maintain their own
Amazon accounts, or anyone who may send or receive gifts from anyone with an Amazon account, from posting a review.

And if my review violated this obscure and apparently arbitrary policy, why was it allowed to go live in the first place? I have the email that told me it was live, I saw it on the product page. I wouldn't have even known it had been taken down, that I had violated this policy, if I hadn't been enthusiastic enough about the book to go back and see what other reviews had been left, because I did not receive any notice that it had been removed....

So please tell me if it is
Amazon's policy to remove reviews based on a similarity to another account without discussion with the account holder or any opportunity to address any apparent similarities and verify that the account is, indeed, a legitimate account and not a review farm or other sock puppet enterprise?

Right now, I am severely disappointed in
Amazon's review process as a whole, and wondering how many legitimate reviews have been arbitrarily deleted from your site... undermining the whole review process just as much as anything your policy is apparently intended to prevent.

Please explain to me exactly what made my account "similar" to another account, because I am currently highly unsatisfied with the explanation I have received so far!"


Well, apparently it is, since the next communication I got was over a week later, and went as follows:

"Hello,

We reviewed the information you provided and have determined that your review was removed in accordance with our guidelines. Our data shows elements of your
Amazon account match elements of other Amazon accounts reviewing the same product. In these cases, we remove the review to maintain trust in our customer reviews and avoid any perception of bias.

Once a review is removed because it does not comply with our guidelines, the reviewer may not submit any new reviews on the same product.

To learn more about this policy, please see our Customer Review Creation Guidelines (
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines).

We cannot share any further information about our decision and we may not reply to further emails about this issue.

Review Moderator
Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com"


So. Basically the same message, with no explanation of what elements are causing my review to be deleted, which would render reviewing the guidelines utterly useless, because I don't know which guideline has been violated, so I don't know what area would need adjusting before my opinion on anything for sale at Amazon would be "allowable."

Screw them and their review process. I am entirely thrilled for all of my friends who are enjoying publishing success using Amazon's platforms and I wish them many years of high rankings and lots and lots of money, but given my experience the review system is, as LD would put it, a load of bushwa.


Sorry about the font weirdness, but Blogger doesn't appear to like copy/paste from Gmail and I'm not patient enough at this point to track down the obscure setting that will straighten all that out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Unforseen Perils of Night Shifting

I've been on straight nights for over a year now. The initial problems were more to do with diet than anything, honestly. I could shove down enough caffeine, sugar, and b12 to stay awake, and I figured out how to sleep during the day, but I had a lot of trouble eating right. I'm... better, not great but better about that now.

One side effect that I didn't foresee was the schedule enforced hermitage becoming somewhat my idea.

Back before college, while I was working road construction, a friend and I went dancing at one of the bars in the town north of here every Thursday night. It was the highlight of our week, and it was a blast. I still remember it being a nearly obscene amount of fun to go there and dance amongst as many people as could pack into the tiny bar.

Now, the thought of doing that gives me a mild case of the willies. Hell, at work I occasionally get claustrophobic and cranky when there are too many people in my fish bowl, though it is a tiny room and six people in it is way too much. Add in my dislike for having people hovering behind me and I start to get a little twitchy.

I've come to realize fairly recently that I've got a bit of social anxiety now that I didn't used to have. I was never the life of the party, and I was always sort of nervous around new people but I had learned how to stomp on that and be friendly, meet new people, be sort of gregarious. Pretty sure I've lost most of that, in purely social situations.

I'm not running in panic from the idea of meeting new people or being in a place where there are more than five people present, or anything. I just... get tense. I realized not long ago that I recognized the feeling I was having when meeting more than one new person, especially off of "my" territory, and it was that dumb junior high "but if I open my mouth they'll know I'm a dork" feeling.

Even Blogorado, thinking back. I love my tribe, of course, but I couldn't stay in the house for very long if there were many people inside. I'd be in there and visit with people a bit and then I'd go out to the shop, where there was room to breathe... and I'd relax.

It isn't an anxiety attack, or anything close to that severe, it's just a tension and a low level but constant desire to go back to my nice safe cave. When I actually do something social, if there are more people there than I expected, I want to call the whole thing off and go home.

I know what's caused the uptick, I think. I'm pretty sure it's just sensitization from not being social very much. Which is easy enough to fix if I can manage to make it work with a few friends that are still local, and don't get screwed up by being the one who's working when I'm not.

I'm taking an unexpected vacation next week. Nothing bad, just it was pointed out to me that my vacation hours were maxed and strongly suggested that I take some time so that I wasn't *not* earning vacation, and it happened to fit into the schedule for next week. It's one of my short weeks and if I'm gonna take time off I'd rather kill one of the four day weeks but such is life. I didn't have any plans though, so I'm gonna try to get a few projects accomplished, do some day walking and soak up some sun, and maybe get some social time in, with bonus points if I manage to convince a friend to haul his boat up to the lake so I can get social, water, and sun time all at once. And I'll work on the whole being social thing, as I can, because I'd rather work on it now than wait until the hermitude is much worse.

Now that I think about it, I really need to get my fishing license for this year. Haven't even managed to go fishing yet this year, which is a tragedy, but one I can remedy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

He Did It Again

By now, all of you who still bother to check back in here probably know about the passing of Gay Cynic. I haven't talked much about it anywhere, because I just can't find the words.

The last few years we've lost entirely too many people we care about, in this neck of the woods, and I think I just ran out of ways to say that I'm sad and I miss them.

Tonight, though, I went on a wander through blog archives, which reminded me of a story about friends, and I wasn't sure if I had ever told it before... so I went digging in my own archives to see if I had. Of course, me being me, it wound up being more of a sentimental trip than I had originally intended... but I tripped over a comment that Ray left on a post back in 2010 during another spate of losses.

See, in amongst the quirky wit and the flamboyant style, Ray had a very definite knack for being able to say the right thing, at the right time. It happened then, and reading his words this early morning in the Long Dark Tea Time of the soul made it hit me all over again how lucky I was to get to know him, and how much of a blank spot he's left in the lives of so very many people.

Since I can't say it any better, I'll let Ray say it again:

"That some folks pass through our lives all too briefly is one of the rougher things we face...and sometimes its hard to remember the joy and wisdom they brought in the sorrow of their final passage." - Ray Carter, aka Gay_Cynic

Truth. Hard as it is, I promise I'll try to remember the joy, Ray, and wherever you are I hope they appreciate what they've got now, because it is definitely a loss for the rest of us.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Adventures In Air Travel

So, Darlin Man and I have created a bit of tradition by managing to spend New Year's Eve together, usually at the home of friends. This year, it didn't look like he was going to be able to get the time off, so I was kind of bummed. Then Farmmom stepped in and decided that my Christmas present this year would be a ticket to go see him instead, so that's what I've been doing for the last week.

This isn't a post about that trip, though. Or, not all of it. Just the return leg, and the interesting people I got to encounter on it.

My flight was out of Birmingham, to Amarillo, with a brief layover in Houston. So I show up at the Birmingham airport needing to check my bag. I was already checked in thanks to the wonders of living in the future, I'd done it on my phone earlier that day, and gotten my seat assignment on the tiny plane changed to one of the onesies seats on the left side of the plane, too. That will become important later.

So, I walk on up to the counter and there's no line, which is a nice change from the outbound trip, and the gentleman behind the counter asks me "You're not from around here are you?"

What gave it away? The lack of an Alabama Drawl, the fact that I'm not wearing any red whatsoever or the fact that my bag already had a sticker on it from the outbound flight?

Anyway, he's being chatty and we're waiting for the machines to do their thing, and he's making small talk. You know, the obvious questions: Where ya headed, What brings you to Alabama, etc etc.

During the course of this conversation he pops out with "So, you want a boyfriend in Alabama? I'm single, he he he."

Nawwww, really? No way.

I steer the conversation away from that field since he's got control of my bag already and I'd like for it to end up in the same spot as me. When he asks me what I do, I tell him I'm a dispatcher for the Sheriff's Office.

"Oh, really? What's the worst call you've gotten?" Ugh. So I tell him the most annoying calls are actually the non emergency ones, trying to move on from the "I'm a complete stranger TELL ME YOUR TRAUMA" question, and toss out a brief funny story about a lady who called 911 four times trying to get me to fix her phone because it would only dial 911 (failing to pay your bill will do that) or call her family to fix it.

"Oh, yeah, I bet that's annoying, but what's the worst call you've gotten?"

Grrrr. I said something to make him leave it the hell alone and started tapping my fingers on his counter.

"Well, for me, (I was in the military, you know) the worst stuff was always kids. I still wake up in the night sometimes." Yes, you could hear the parentheses in his speech, though at the end of the conversation I was pretty sure he couldn't have spelled parenthesis.

"Oh, yeah, it's a shame there's such a stigma in our armed forces, and EMS and Law, too, about seeking help for mental issues."

"Well, I was Special Forces, so I can't just walk up to you and ask for help, you know. Top Secret, and all that."

"Well, I'm not a mental health professional, so that's probably a good thing. Oh hey I think it's finally spitting out my boarding passes, so you can help this nice lady over here."

"Your flight isn't for another hour and a half, so you don't need to be in a hurry!"

"But I want to be. Better safe than sorry, and all that. Have a nice day."

I was texting Darlin Man about it once I got through security and secured myself a coffee and a cinnamon twist. He replied "Tell me you got a picture." Of course I didn't get a picture, I was too busy trying to get away from the guy before he asked to take me away from it all to his palatial swamp shack.

I'm pretty sure this dude's military career, if any, could have been filmed and marketed as Earnest Goes to Bootcamp... He didn't even tell me a branch, just "I was in the military."

I know several people who were actually in the military, and some who are. For the most part, probably thanks to the rivalries between the branches, they will tell you what branch they were in when it comes up. In certain cases, MOS trumps branch, they might tell you they were EOD instead of telling you a branch. And I know people who's job in the military actually was "go kill that guy/destroy this shit and then get out." Those people don't bring that up in casual conversation with strangers, generally.

Anyway. I got away from Earnest Joins The Special Forces, and got on the plane, only to discover that my flight attendant was an older lady who had a profusion of bone white hair, with a sort of Halloween wig that you've taken off and put on too many times kind of frizziness to it. Which, fine, you do you, but she was not prepared to take any shit off of anyone. Some guy in the first couple rows was messing with his phone during the safety lecture and she waved her little brochure in front of his face, and then she physically sat another guy up in his seat so that his seat back would be in the upright and locked position for take off.

I kept my knees and elbows tucked when she came by with the drink cart, and made sure to be very polite.

In Houston I was left to myself during my hour and small change layover, but once my flight was called and I lined up to board I found myself with a young man (early twenties maybe?) velcroed to my backpack. I mean he was "Can I smell your hair?" close. I shifted around a bit, but he was always right there, so I resigned myself to being uncomfortable because we're all in line and want to be on our way, and got on the damn plane.

This is the flight that I'd changed my seat assignment to one of the onesies seats on the left side of the plane, and if you'll remember I said it would come up later. I just casually noticed while I was stowing my crap for take off that the young man was roughly in the area where I remembered my previous seating assignment being. It wasn't important yet, but an hour and twenty minutes later after we landed, it sort of became that way.

See, I got off the plane and hit the bathroom, dug out my keys so that I could get my car, put my sweatshirt back on under my coat because it was fifty in Houston and twenty in Amarillo (grumble) and went to get my bags. Halfway to baggage claim, I realize that too-close-kid is behind me again.

At the carousel he positions himself behind me and to my left, so I move. And he follows. We did this dance three times before I said fuck it and turned sideways to the carousel and stared at him until bags started coming.

I was *really* tempted to yank my bag off the conveyer and onto his foot.

Did I have "Be creepy and weird" tattooed on my forehead when I wasn't looking?

Side note: on the last leg, they advised us that our Captain was named Morgan, and I'm pretty sure he had a bet on with the crew as to how many passengers he could make puke... he did quite a bit of the gain altitude, then level off quick for that fast elevator floaty feeling, and waggled the wings (at what I don't know, passing owls maybe) and managed to come in beautifully for landing, and drop the last foot or so like a rock... Like I said, I'm pretty sure he had a bet riding on how many folks he could make puke.



Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Small Rant

I've been forced lately to acknowledge that some of the people I had previously considered sensible really aren't. Which, honestly, shouldn't come as a surprise, and yet it did.

This revelation comes to me via Facebook, of course, that perfect medium of publicizing each of your own cherished idiocies. (My Facebook wall is currently mostly kitten pictures... FarmDad located another three kittens, soggy and unhappy in the rain, a while back, bringing my total count to nine cats in the house. Oy.)

Back on point, the educating factor lately has been the slew of alleged police misconduct, accompanied by cell phone video, which inevitably gets people in an uproar.

With each new incident of cell-phone filmed police interaction, more and more people connected to me on the Book of Face are revealing themselves to be less inclined towards logical thinking than I had expected them to be. Which is not actually their fault- if someone fails to live up to my expectations without any acknowledged agreement to do so, it's my fault for misjudging where to set my expectations for them.

Here's my position on all of it: We don't know everything. No matter how many angles an incident is covered from, regardless of the clarity of the video or the apparently endless string of "expert" commentators the talking heads on the television trot out, we never, ever know everything about one of those incidents. Period, full stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Let's leave aside phrases like "active investigation" and "HIPAA."*

In the first place, the entirety of the incident is never on cell phone video. (Dash cam and body cam video are a separate issue in this regard.)

Johnny Public who wants a ton of views on his YouTube channel doesn't notice a cop approaching within cell phone range and immediately start videoing. You know how I know this? Because with one exception, that being a video of an extremely high man in a McDonalds who had apparently been causing a fuss and stirring up trouble for long enough to get most of the other patrons annoyed at him before the police arrived, I have never seen the officer approach and make an initial interaction with the supposed victim in one of these videos. Come to think of it, for the parameters I've set, the video I mentioned doesn't count, since it wasn't accusing the cops of misconduct but rather saving for posterity the consequences of poor choices in the recreational pharmaceutical area.

So, really, none of them show the officer making his initial contact... none of them start until someone thinks things are gonna get exciting- by which time, there have likely been at least a few escalating factors... which can come from either the officer or the purported victim.

I'm not saying that the cops are always right, or that there aren't bad cops. I'm just saying that we don't know everything.

But, let's handwave aside the specifics leading up to whenever Johnny Public decided to hit the record button on his phone, that seems to be a popular strategy anyway.

Even if that didn't matter (and it does) we still don't know everything. In every area, on every beat, there are people who are well known, infamous even. The girl in the video who looks small and harmless being tackled by the big mean cop may in actuality be the one that every officer in the department knows will regularly go off her psych meds and decide that the government is stalking her. This particular incident might have been preceded by several others, in which she attempted to assault officers. Dispatch might have notified the officers that she was likely off of her meds again, judging by the calls that she had made to the administrative and/or 911 lines. Or, maybe they don't have indications that she's off her meds again, maybe she just has a known history of attempting to assault people, or harm herself.

We don't know.

Maybe the cop's dog died the night before and he's really sad but wants to be a man about it so he's mad at the world, and therefore has decided to be an utter jackwagon to everyone that day.

By all means, watch the videos, and inevitably you will draw your own conclusions when you do, but for the sake of all that is logical remember this one phrase before you begin spreading them around like a testimonial from on high: We. Don't. Know. Everything.

Don't get so utterly set in your opinion of an incident in which you weren't involved, and have necessarily limited knowledge, that new information cannot sway you. And for gawd's sake don't jump on bandwagons, either the All Cops Are Evil one or the Cops Are Always Right one.

There are bad cops out there, and there are good cops out there. I happen to work with and know a good number of the latter, for which I am appropriately grateful. But shouting back and forth about be respectful and OMG PIGS is about as productive as a gun buy-back, in terms of achieving the stated goal.

Here's an idea, and it'll cover Rape Culture, Racism, Sexism, Bad Cops, Liberals, Conservatives, Hipsters,Them, and Us all in one grand plan:

How about we all just treat each other, regardless of any identifying characteristic, with a basic level of respect and decency, based on the fact that we are all human beings. The good old Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated. With it's oft unspoken corollary: If Someone Leaves You The Hell Alone, Show Them The Same Courtesy.

I think that'd cut down on a lot of the uproar we've been seeing on these subjects lately.

It'll never happen, of course.




*Hat tip to OldNFO for pointing out my sleep-deprived error.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Other Duties as Assigned"

I've got a few little extra duties, but one of the more entertaining ones as a vampire dispatcher is the wake up calls.

If someone has an early morning, and thinks they might need help getting out of bed or just wants to be sure someone will bug them until they show evidence of being awake and coherent, they'll ask a dispatcher to give them a wake up call.

At least one of them plans an extra hour in "ten more minutes" into the routine. He took a nap in the deputy's quarters attached to the jail after a particularly shitty week when he really needed to be catching up on paperwork, but couldn't keep his eyes open. Which is fine, he deserved it, believe me.

But he asked to be woken up in an hour. So he was, and "ten more minutes, please." Okidokie.

Ten minutes later "ten more minutes please."

Half a dozen "Ten more minutes" and I told him the next time I had to go in there I was going to poke him with a stick. And then found a stick.

I need to figure out how to play music through the office phones so that I can blast him with something loud and obnoxious... it's not that I mind waking him up and I know he builds the time in for someone to basically annoy him into actual wakefulness... but every so often I feel like changing it up a bit.

And my midget phone sex worker voice just doesn't faze him, alas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Had A Weird Dream Today

I've been having some rather oddball dreams lately, the kind that wake you up because your brain throws on the brakes and says "Wait, what??"

But some of them, I wake up a bit and try to go back to sleep if I have time cause I want to know what happens next.

Had one of those today... and after a little back and forth with LabRat after I decided it wasn't gonna get out of my head, ended up with what's turning out to be a really fun story idea.

Not ready for public consumption yet, but I'm poking at it in between doing the work that they actually pay me to do...

I will say, it probably makes me entirely too happy to write "I'm not putting a goddamn black bear in the plane!"